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Quizz gets feet wet in NFL debut for Falcons

Says older brother James expects to play for Beavers vs. UCLA
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Jacquizz Rodgers, carrying the ball for Oregon State in last year's Cal game, made his NFL debut on Sunday with the Atlanta Falcons.

CHICAGO - Jacquizz Rodgers got his introduction to the NFL in the second quarter of Atlanta's 30-12 loss to Chicago Sunday at Soldier Field.

On his first career carry, the rookie tailback from Oregon State took a handoff from Matt Ryan, then got no further than a step or two before running into a brick wall - Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who stopped the play for a two-yard loss.

Welcome to the league, kid.

In the Falcons' locker room after the game, Rodgers acted as if Urlacher's lick made little impression.

'Nah, to me, it was just a regular tackle,' Quizz said. 'I didn't really feel nothing.'

I forgot to ask Rodgers if he knows of Urlacher, a seven-time Pro Bowler who is destined for the Hall of Fame. Probably not.

Rodgers didn't seem wide-eyed after his baptism in the NFL.

'It's football,' said Rodgers, chosen by Atlanta in the fifth round of the April draft. 'It's just at the highest phase - the professional level. It's the same game, but we're playing tougher opponents. When you're on the field, you have to go out there and produce.'

Rodgers played about 20 snaps at tailback, all but one of them in the second half of a game in which the Falcons fell behind 30-6 midway through the third quarter.

Quizz carried twice for zero net yards. The official stat sheet credited him for three receptions for 33 yards, though the yardage was really 26 - with catches of 3, 8 and 15 yards over the final eight minutes of mop-up time.

Rodgers is also the second man back to receive kickoffs, but winds up blocking for deep man Eric Weems.

'It felt good to come in and play a role,' Rodgers said. 'We have a lot of things we have to work on to reach the potential of what we know we can do.'

Indeed, Sunday's result was shocking for a team that went 13-3 and some pundits - including Sports Illustrated's Peter King - have predicted as the 2012 Super Bowl champion. The Bears, who made it to the NFC championship game a year ago, looked much the better team Sunday.

Two who received plenty of time on the Chicago defense were ex-Ducks Matt Toeaina, who started at tackle, and Nick Reed, who saw reserve duty at end. Coach Lovie Smith mentioned Reed's presence unsolicited during his post-game talk with the media.

Former Oregon State D-tackle Stephen Paea was on the inactive list for the Bears.

Rodgers made a positive impression in Atlanta's four preseason contests, rushing for 120 yards on 27 carries (a 4.4-yard average), with four receptions for 24 yards and three kickoff returns for a 21.0 average.

'He's a great dude, a smart dude, and he plays hard,' said Jason Snelling, the backup to starter Michael Turner at tailback. 'He's real shifty. There are a lot of things he can do with the ball.'

Atlanta listed Rodgers at fourth team behind veterans Turner and Snelling and Antone Smith, a 5-9, 190-pound third-year pro. Smith was inactive Sunday, however.

Coach Mike Smith figures Rodgers gives the Falcons a different look than the 5-10, 245-pound Turner and the 5-11, 235-pound Snelling. The prototype is 5-6, 185-pound Darren Sproles, now with New Orleans. Rodgers was listed in Sunday's game program as 5-6 and 196, losing an inch from the program height of his college years.

'You have the thunder with Mike and the lightning with (Rodgers),' Snelling said. 'They're a good complement to each other.'

Rodgers admits there has been a transition to the NFL game.

'It's been a learning process, learning from the two older guys in front of me,' he said. 'I'm taking mental reps when I'm not in, and trying to get the whole playbook down. I'm trying to produce and just do everything correct.

'I know I have a long way to go. You have to get better each and every day. You can never stop learning, can never stop getting better.'

Turner, who rushed for 1,371 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, has been a role model.

'Every day,' Quizz said. 'I'm watching him run, the way he runs plays, his steps, the way he carries himself as a professional.'

Rodgers has rented an apartment by himself in Flowery Branch in suburban Atlanta. He said he has enjoyed living in the Atlanta area.

'It's been fun,' he said. 'I'm from the south (Houston). It's pretty much the same as Texas.'

Rodgers' uncle, Rodney Williams, was on hand at Soldier Field for Quizz's NfL debut.

'He always comes,' Rodgers said.

Rodgers said he keeps in touch with former teammates Paea and James Dockery, now with the Cleveland Browns. He shook his head when asked about his old school starting the season with losses to Sacramento State and Wisconsin.

'We have a thing where we start off slow, but they'll pick it up,' he said. 'Losing to a team like Sacramento shows they have work to do, but they're gonna get better.'

Older brother James Rodgers - rehabbing from double knee surgery - fully intends to make his season debut in Oregon State's next game on Sept. 24, Quizz said.

'That's the plan,' he said. 'His first game will be against UCLA.'

I'm not sure how successful Quizz's pro career will be, but he didn't look out of place Sunday. I'm guessing there's a role for a guy with Quizz's work ethic, jitterbug moves, receiving skills and blocking ability. But that's for NFL coaches to decide.